By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Lions Gate Entertainment is putting the finishing touches on a deal to acquire rival independent studio Summit Entertainment in a deal worth about $700 million, according to several people with knowledge of the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The agreement, expected to be announced within days, would bring together the studio behind “Saw,” “Mad Men” and the upcoming “The Hunger Games” with the maker of the hugely successful “Twilight” films. The two companies are blocks apart in Santa Monica.
Lions Gate will pay a little more than $350 million in cash and issue about $50 million in new stock to the owners of Summit, sources said. It would also assume between $200 million and $300 million in debt.
The deal is expected to immediately add to Lions Gate’s bottom line, as Summit is profitable, based primarily on the cash generated by “Twilight” sequels.
The expectation of a deal comes after about two months of heated negotiations that included rival bidder Colony Capital, a private equity company that is a partial owner of independent film studio Miramax, which Colony wanted to merge with Summit.
One person close to the talks said that Colony, controlled by billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, made an all-cash offer of the same value as Lions Gate’s. However, Summit investors preferred taking some of Lions Gate’s equity, which would give them ownership of about 5 percent of the combined company.
The people with knowledge said it’s still possible, though, that Colony could come in with a higher offer at the last second, a bid that Summit would have to consider.
Should the deal close, it would be a victory for Lions Gate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns, who have long eyed Summit and held on-and-off talks to acquire it since 2008.
The two would remain in charge of Lions Gate after the acquisition, while Summit chiefs Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger would take charge of the combined studio’s motion picture group. Layoffs are expected once the acquisition is complete.